Belfast Telegraph

Farmers milking all technology can offer to increase cash yield

By Jamie Stinson

Co Antrim has become the robot capital of the UK as farmers embrace robotic milking, it's been claimed.

A gathering in Belfast hosted by the Royal Association of British Diary Farmers (RABDF) heard about the latest innovations in the industry, from robotic milking to the latest method for calf rearing.

RABDF held the event ahead of the Livestock Event in Birmingham from July 8-9, which attracts farmers from across the UK.

But despite the innovations being discussed, many of the problems coming up were old, familiar ones.

Iain McLean, dairy farmer and council member of RABDF, said the biggest issue was still the extremely low milk price.

"It is at a base of 23p per litre, and depending on borrowing and labour, to produce milk can cost up from 22p to 30p."

Mr McLean, who has a 190 cow pedigree herd in Bushmills, Co Antrim, said he believed that the recent removal of quotas was detrimental.

Of the 13,000 dairy farmers in the UK, there are about nine per week leaving the industry.

Yesterday's event heard that farmers were embracing technology - such as robotic milking and robotic feeding for beef cattle.

However, Mr McLean said, the use of a robotic milker increases costs in other areas, such as electricity. "The cost of production from conventional parlour and robotics, the electricity to run the robots would be 4p a litre over conventional. Yes that would be handy, but we couldn't do an extra 4p per litre at the minute.

"Although, they say it doesn't cost you any more because you get more milk from the cows.

A robotic feeder for beef cattle would set you back around £100,000, and there are currently none in Northern Ireland and only one in the Republic of Ireland.

The Livestock Event attracted over 17,000 people last year, with around one in 10 of those hailing from Northern Ireland.

Nick Everington, chief executive at RABDF, said: "Livestock Event 2015 will provide all farmers with the opportunity to get away for the day, share information and ideas and pick up no-nonsense practical advice.

"They will also have a record number of practical and technical demonstrations to visit, all of which are designed to improve business efficiency. Aware that forage is the cheapest form of feed, grassland management is going to be right up there - in the Forage Field demonstration area and in the machinery and equipment zones."

As dairy farmers are struggling with the price of milk, the RABDF has offered every UK dairy farm a free ticket for the event if they pre-register.

Belfast Telegraph